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Forest Conserved on Historic Parker Ranch

WA - The forested portion of a historic ranch, originally homesteaded in the 1800s, has been conserved in Kittitas County.
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Forest Conserved on Historic Parker Ranch

The forested portion of the historic Parker Ranch, originally homesteaded in the 1800s, has been protected in Kittias County, WA. About 480 acres of the the 1,460-acre ranch were conserved through the sale of development rights by the Parker sisters: Franki Storlie, Mickey Parker, and Lori Macke.

The sisters’ father, Jack Parker, bought the ranch in the Manastash Hills back in the 1960s and the family grew up learning to work with and love the land.

But as was the case with many property owners in Kittitas County, they were not able to buy all the rights along with the land. An industrial timber company retained the timber rights and visited the property regularly to harvest the old-growth ponderosa pine.

When the opportunity came to work with the Cascade Land Conservancy and use special transfer of development rights funding in 2007, the sisters decided to use the money to buy back their timber rights. Now they can manage the timber on their property to their own specifications and realize a goal long held by their family. The area is also now protected by conservation easement.

“The property is a treasure to their families and to our community," said Jill Arango, Cascade Land Conservancy’s Kittitas County conservation director. "We now know the timber will be harvested in a sustainable manner, the land will continue to be in resource production, and the family can be in control of management decisions.”

After Jack Parker bought the ranch in the 1960s, he ran around 200 head of cattle on the ranch and also grew dry land wheat on part of the ranch. Jack became well-known in the Northwest and California for his horsemanship and training of horses. Many of his horses were sent to film sets Hollywood and for the television show “Gunsmoke.” James Arness, the star of the television series that ran from 1955 to 1975, came to meet Jack to see the origin of the wonderful sure-footed horses that starred in his show.

The ranch was originally homesteaded in the 1800’s, and the cabin was the schoolhouse for the Umptanum area during that time. The barn, cabin, and other ranch buildings were recently placed on the historic preservation registry for the State of Washington.

The ranch is also designated as an Important Bird Area by the Audubon Society because of the wide variety of birds that can be seen on the ranch. Deer and elk live on the ranch as well. The ranch is a natural migration route for the elk with the cow elk using the ranch in the spring to birth their calves. The ranch terrain includes shrub-steppe, wheat fields, fir trees and ponderosa pines. A branch of Umptanum Creek runs through the middle of the ranch and there are many natural springs for wildlife.

"My sisters and I feel very honored to have Parker Ranch and to be able to do our part to assist with the conservation of the earth's natural environment," said Franki Storlie. “This easement would not have been possible without the Cascade Land Conservancy. The staff in the Ellensburg office are very committed.”

Photo by Jill Arango, Cascade Land Conservancy Kittitas County Conservation Director

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